Diverse group of elementary students facing away from the camera jumping with their arms stretched up in victory and excitement on a field trip in a green wooded area.

Holistic Student Empowerment: Letting Student Voice Lead the Way

‘Engagement’ is more about what you an do for your students.

‘Empowerment’ is about helping students to figure out what they can do themselves.

– George Couros

Listening with Care

  • Becoming a trauma-responsive school is not an easy or straightforward task
  • Be prepared to address conflicts with traditional school models developed around teacher authority and school rules designed to maintain control and order
  • Listen to students and trust them as experts on their own experience
  • Engage students as full and active partners in school and community transformation
  • A focus on equity is paramount in empowering students

Starting with Somedays

At the start of the year, have every student and teacher in your school complete this sentence: “Someday in school, I would like to _.”

Then, each day for the rest of the year, the leadership (and teachers/staff) do their very best to make those wishes come true.

You will be surprised at how many of the wishes are able to be granted and how much more empowered everyone (especially students) feels at the end of the year.

Moving Toward Microadventures

  • Students overwhelming want more time to be outside and for physical movement and play
  • Microadventures are small, low-cost, easy-to-run expeditions.
  • Consider reaching out to and/or partnering with outdoor schools, community programs, etc. in your area for options and ideas
  • Microadventures ensure equitable access to opportunities and resources that meet basic psychological needs

Empowering Students to Lead

  • Teachers can’t always know what challenges their students bring to school, but they can work to develop healthier school environments by creating opportunities for children to voice their needs and embrace their strengths
  • Idea: Let students brainstorm what they see are fixable problems at their school, work together to problem-solve and implement their solutions throughout the year

The Link Between Voice and Well-Being

Some outcomes that you may see:

  • increased academic achievement
  • decreased chronic absenteeism
  • improved school climate

Related Articles

Case Study: Merced Union High School District

Through its work with Inflexion, MUHSD is seeing strong results in student outcomes and in closing the opportunity gap for underserved students. California School Dashboard data show College/Career Indicator scores for African American, Hispanic, English Learners, students with disabilities, students who are homeless, and students who are socioeconomically disadvantaged are 16 to 29 points higher than the state average.

Resources We Love (And Hope You Will Too!)

During our May Counterpart meetings, we asked folks to share what they have been engaging with recently. Below is a list of all the resources shared by our incredible community, offering a taste of the diverse and inspiring content they’re currently exploring. This list has something for everyone: from thought-provoking articles to captivating podcasts to must-watch documentaries. So, take a peek, pick your poison, and get ready to dive into something fantastic!

Passion. Pride. Promise. Two Leaders Help Pave the Way for Their Students & Communities

Tucked away in the hills of rural western Oregon, the Vernonia and Gaston school districts defy many of the stereotypes most of us hold when we think of rural schools. Their communities face both common and unique challenges. Vernonia Elementary Principal, Michelle Eagleson, and Gaston Superintendent, Summer Catino, share how their small schools and communities achieve greatness.

Student Cell Phone Policy: Best Practices for Student Success

As principal of Milwaukie High School, Carmen Gelman (now Director of Professional Development, Coalition of Oregon School Administrators, COSA) worked with the school community (including students) to ensure a firm but balanced approach to student cell phone use. We share their policy and rollout materials to inspire and guide you as you consider tackling this oft contentious topic.